AN ARTICLE written by Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco published in Business Mirror on May 22, 2020 quoted DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones as saying that teachers are not required or forced to report physically in schools on June 1, 2020 onwards.
The said article also quoted the DepEd Secretary saying that DepEd was called and still being called "cruel" and "unreasonable" by teachers and parents for the said decision of pegging June 1 as the first day of service for teachers and August 24 as the first day of class. The said dates formed part of the 16 pages Calendar of Activities for SY 2020-2021 proposed by DepEd after series of consultations and was approved by the National IATF on Emerging Infectious Disease.
However, Secretary Briones stressed that teachers may return to work beginning June 1 either "virtually" or "physically" depending on the prevailing situations in their locality. She even reiterated that physical reporting may be possible in areas where there is no single Covid-19 case where she based on the Department of Health (DOH) earlier report that there are over 40 provinces in the country with no reported cases of Covid from the start or in the past weeks.
Granting that the locality has no single case but physical reporting as stressed by the Secretary must be in compliance with the DOH guidelines and the Inter-Agency Task Force.
The Secretary even mentioned in numerous instances when she and her designated spokespersons, Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Nepomuceno Malaluan and Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla were interviewed in the various TV and radio programs and DepEd's own virtual press conference that the teachers can report online or physically on the first day of June and said that the department never imposed its 900,000 teachers to troop to schools as warm bodies.
Briones corrected recent FB post by some quarters that physical reporting is irrevocable and labeled it as untrue. She lamented that despite their numerous explanations, some quarters still insist that DepEd is insisting that they report physically.
In Paragraph 13 of the "Implementing Guidelines on the DepEd School Calendar and Activities for School Year 2020-2021," it only said that teachers shall start rendering service on June 1, 2020 to attend orientation and training activities on the utilization of the distance learning delivery modalities, prepare instructional materials, and plan the organization of classes in consideration of the learning delivery modalities to be employed. But towards the end of the paragraph, it says that if skeleton/skeletal workforce will still be the operative government guidelines by June, DepEd shall issue the appropriate alternative work arrangements guidelines to the field to comply with the prevailing policy and to ensure safe work environment.
How could DepEd obliged teachers to report given the prevailing condition in the area when in Paragraph 10 of the said guidelines says that school opening (which will be in August 24) will not necessarily mean traditional face-to-face learning in classroom. The physical opening of schools will depend on the risk severity grading or classification of a locality, pursuant to guidelines of the Department of Health (DOH), the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Philippines (IATF). or the Office of the President (OP). Even in areas where schools are allowed to open, physical distancing will still be required, which will necessitate schools to combine face-to-face learning with distance learning. The said condition also applies to teachers.
This corner hopes that parents and other stakeholders including DepEd teaching and non-teaching personnel shall have an open mind and should try to bear with the effects of the "new normal." Together, we can work towards the return to normalcy despite of the prevailing situation rather than being hostage to the uncertain future this disease is doing to us as we all know that only our unified efforts can possibly move us up to the next stage after defeating this unseen enemy.